In the late nineteenth century, Edward Rudolf, a young Sunday school teacher and civil servant in South London, found himself confronted by the brutal effects of poverty on the lives of children.
When two young boys failed to turn up for his Sunday school, he went to look for them and was shocked to find them begging for food on the streets. Their father had died, leaving their mother struggling to bring up seven children under 11 years old.
Theirs was not an isolated experience and Rudolf was moved to act.
He approached Archbishop Tait to express his concern for children living on the margins of society and suggesting that the Church of England should be at the forefront of social action for such children. The Archbishop agreed enthusiastically and, soon after, the Church of England Central Home for Waifs and Strays was established.
By 1919, with support from parishes and individuals across the country, Edward Rudolf had set up 113 caring children's homes throughout England and Wales. The partnership with the Church of England helped these to be radical in their day as they provided accommodation for just a handful of children, ensuring a family-centred upbringing, which was very different from the 100-bed residential establishments commonplace at this time.
Victorian Britain was very different to the country today. It did not have the welfare state safety nets of modern Britain and it was up to the Church and voluntary organisations to take the lead in social welfare. The Children's Society took up this challenge and has been at the forefront of Christian charity care ever since, seeking to provide a meaningful future for disadvantaged and vulnerable children.